When Pets Go Bad
WHEN PETS GO BAD – Information from the Department of Conservation and the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust.
We should never forget that our beloved pet cat is really a “killer in the kitchen”, and that a cat’s basic instinct is to hunt. From the age of just four weeks, kittens are learning how to attack and kill, how to use their claws and their teeth to bring down prey.
Even in suburbia, cats kill many small birds, such as fantails, as well as skinks and large insects.
In the wild, feral cats have a huge impact on ground nesting birds, especially seabirds – DOC has an increasing collection of infrared footage showing cats killing the chicks and adults of birds such as dotterels, both on beaches and in braided river beds.
Burrow-nesting seabirds on Little Barrier Island are slowly making a comeback, 20 years after cats were removed from the island. Feral cats had a devastating impact on kakapo on Stewart Island during the 1980s, and recent surveys by David Blair and the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Trust suggests cats are having a significant impact on yellow-eyed penguin numbers on the island.
Dogs can have equally devastating effects on wildlife, and will kill just the sake of it, even if they aren’t hungry – remember the dog that killed large numbers of kiwis in Northland’s Waitangi State Forest, and the dogs that killed many of Oamaru’s blue penguins.
The sad fact is that our native wildlife, such as penguins, and cats and dogs just don’t mix. If you own a dog and live near beaches where penguins occur, ask yourself if it is appropriate to exercise your dog at the beach. If you own a cat and live near areas of native bush, ask yourself if your cat is having impact on native wildlife, and whether you can do anything about lessening the impact. We’re not saying you shouldn’t own pets – we’re just challenging you to be thoughtful, responsible pet owners.